Bosnians voted Sunday in presidential and parliamentary elections that could either give a new impetus for its integration to EU and NATO or widen the divide along ethnic lines.
REUTERS - The Bosnian Serb leader warned on Sunday of Bosnia's possible dissolution if rival politicians could not work together in the ethnically divided country as voters went to the polls.
Since the last vote in 2006, mistrust has deepened between nationalist Croat, Serb and Muslim leaders, and political divisions have widened between the country's two regions, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic.
"Either we will be able to reach a compromise and some balance or we will have to go for another option and that is to separate in peace, live next to each other and develop civilised relations," Serb Republic Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said after voting in his native town of Laktasi.
The preliminary turnout figure by 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) was 35.7 percent, election organisers said. They expected it to be higher once data from all municipalities have been processed after polling stations closed at 7 p.m.
Since the 1992-95 war that killed about 100,000 people, Bosnia has held five general elections but has lagged in political and economic reforms and remains near the back of the queue of Western Balkan nations aspiring to EU and NATO entry.
More than 3.1 million voters were eligible to cast ballots for Serb, Croat and Muslim presidency members and deputies in the central, regional and cantonal parliaments, as well as a new president and vice-president of the Serb Republic.
Preliminary results are expected late on Sunday and early on Monday.
"I am voting to replace the politicians who made this country stagnate for more than 15 years. It is about time they left," said Emina Sejdic, 59, who is unemployed.
The country of nearly 3.9 million people in the heart of the Balkans has forests, coal and rapid rivers that make it the region's sole power exporter.
But the economy, which saw double-digit growth after the war as $15 billion in international aid flowed in, has been slowed in the past few years by burdensome administration, corruption and bickering politicians.
"This is the most important postwar election. We are at a crossroads and we must chose whether we want progress or to continue going recklessly into a demise," said Bakir Izetbegovic, a candidate for the presidency's Muslim seat from the largest Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA).
After the International Court of Justice ruled in July that Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia was legal, Dodik started campaigning that Bosnian Serbs should have the same right to secede.
Bosnian Croat nationalist leader Dragan Covic has also based his campaign on calls for a separate Croat entity within Bosnia. "It is important that we go ahead with constitutional changes, right after the election," he said in Mostar.
Bosnian Muslims, the largest ethnic group in the Balkan country, dismiss such talk and say moves towards separatism would lead to a new war.
Date created : 2010-10-03